Concerns about temporary traffic lights in Southwater backing queuing traffic on to the A24 have been raised by the parish council and district councillors.
Miller Homes is currently building 193 homes south of the village, but agreed to finish highway works before the units could be occupied when planning permission was granted by Horsham District Council.
The developer’s subsequent application to remove conditions to allow up to 20 homes to be occupied before the new roundabout on Mill Straight is completed was reluctantly approved by HDC’s Planning Committee South last Tuesday (November 21).
Councillors raised concerns that the current three-way traffic lights were leading to traffic queuing on the A24, and suggested introducing four-way signals would exacerbate this problem.
But officers advised they had no sound planning reasons to refuse the application, as West Sussex County Council as the highways authority, had raised no objection.
Therefore members of the committee agreed to increase the proposed peak hours where the traffic lights would be manned, from 8-9am and 5-6pm, to 7.30-9.30am and 3.30-6.30pm.
The highway works are expected to be finished mid-December.
Jonathan Chowen (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead), deputy leader of the council, said: “We are in a quandary here and have to make the best of it.
“Without the backing of highways, there is no way we can bring a highways issue into this.”
Daniel Crawford, a planner speaking for Miller Homes, said the changes would ‘assist with the delivering of housing’, adding: “This will greatly assist with the current flow of traffic through Mill Straight.”
But Catherine Tobin, clerk of Southwater Parish Council, explained how they were given assurances the temporary traffic lights would be manned up to this point and described the ‘inconvenience and distress’ the development had caused to the village.
Meanwhile the temporary lights had caused ‘major problems’ leading to tail backs on to the A24.
Billy Greening (Con, Southwater) added: “We are disappointed to see there was no objection from West Sussex highways when this development has caused significant aggravation, disruption, frustration and annoyance to the people of Southwater.”
Although on the outskirts of Southwater the site is in the parish of Shipley, with all three district councillors for Billingshurst and Shipley speaking against the changes.
Kate Rowbottom saw ‘no reason’ to approve the changes, Gordon Lindsay echoed concerns about road safety, while Nigel Jupp suggested the application was a ‘smoke screen to approve the unviability of this scheme’.
Paul Clarke (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham) described the current arrangements as ‘inadequate’, while Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham) added: “The works have to be completed ASAP and if we approve this application all we are doing is making it easier for the developer to drag his or her heels.”
However officers explained that if the committee refused the application on highway grounds they would have to refer the decision to Full Council, as the decision could lead to appeal costs.
After a lengthy debate councillors reluctantly agreed to approve the application with changes to the times the traffic lights would be manned.